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Updated: Borough Council Refuses To Accept ‘Save Hogs Back’ Petition

Published on: 5 Nov, 2013
Updated on: 7 Nov, 2013
Cap

Ramsey Nagaty of the Save Hog’s Back Campaign has been gathering signatures in the local area

A response from the council has been added. Please go the the end of the article to view.

Guildford Borough Council (GBC) is refusing to accept a government e-petition set up by the ‘Save Hogs Back’ campaign group on the grounds that those who have signed the petition may not be local to Guildford.

Under council rules, if a petition lodged on its website attracts more than 500 signatures, then the subject raised by the petition must be be debated the by full council.

Mark Payne, a spokesman for the campaign and resident of Onslow Village said: “Our petition has attracted more than 1,000 signatures, but council officers say that it isn’t valid as it doesn’t show how many of those signing are local.

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The original petition which attracted over 1,000 signatures

“This ruling seems a little petty as the petition concerns land within its control and it shouldn’t matter whether the call for its protection comes from, local residents or from visitors to the Hog’s Back who recognise its value.

Fellow campaigner Peter Elliott, from Pinks Hill, is also disappointed by the council’s decision, ‘We purposely chose to go down the government e-petition route in order to give our petition credibility. It seems unbelievable that a local council would dismiss a central government initiative in this way,’ he says.

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The new paper based petition pro-forma

Peter said that the campaigners are ‘undaunted’ by the setback and will now be taking to the streets of Guildford to collect paper-based petitions. He added: “We are confident that we can quickly collect 500 signatures from Guildford residents. The Hog’s Back is an important and well-loved feature of the town and residents will want to see it protected.

“We will be asking campaigners are asking supporters to continue to sign the online petition too, as they believe that such a spectacular landmark as the Hog’s Back is important at a national, as well as a local, level.”

Caroline Reeves speaking on behalf of the Lib Dem Group at GBC said: “We sympathise with the wish to have this petition debated in full council, though it seems that technically the council’s regulations don’t allow for this.

“An e-petition set up on the GBC website needs more than 500 signatures to be automatically referred to the full council for debate, but the signatories must live, work or study in the borough and includes anyone under the age of 18. However in this case it probably isn’t the best way of influencing the Local Plan process.

“We are concerned that the council is failing to get across the message that the locations being put forward in this consultation are options for consideration, not definite proposals. Residents are encouraged to submit formal responses to the Local Plan consultation as the best way of making the strength of feeling clear.

“500 individual responses on the subject of the Hog’s Back would certainly weigh heavily in the difficult decisions that have to be made if we are to have a Local Plan that meets the needs of the borough.

“No decisions have been taken on any sites anywhere in the borough, and the consultation period carries on through November.”

On Thursday November 7 the following response was received from Guildford Borough Council: “We welcome petitions (whether hard copy or e-petition) and recognise that they are one way in which local people can let us know their concerns.  Our petition scheme is designed to provide comprehensive guidance to the public on how to create and submit petitions and e-petitions, including the criteria for their acceptance, and how we will respond to them.

“One of the requirements is that any petition submitted to us may only be signed by people who live, work or study in the borough and we need to verify this before we can give formal consideration to any petition.  Our e-petition facility only allows people to sign an e-petition if they can provide a postcode which confirms that they are living, working or studying in the borough.

“Unfortunately, the Save The Hog’s Back campaign’s e-petition on the government website does not enable us to verify whether those people who have signed it live, work or study in the borough.  Our facility also enables us to communicate with the petition organiser and all e-signatories to inform them of how the council will deal with their e-petition and any relevant decisions taken.

“We have tried to be as helpful as possible by inviting Mr Payne of the Save The Hog’s Back Campaign to start his own e-petition on our website, as some other residents have already done. We also advised him that any petition or e-petition submitted to the council must also include a clear and concise statement covering the subject of the petition and should state what action the petitioners wish the council to take.  The wording of the e-petition on the Government website asks the Government to “stop development of our precious green spaces”.

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test 15 Responses to Updated: Borough Council Refuses To Accept ‘Save Hogs Back’ Petition

  1. Martin Dowland Reply

    November 5, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    How one is supposed to submit formal comments on the local plan needs explaining in order to make it easy for respondents to act.

  2. Trevor Harris Reply

    November 6, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Warning. The Liberal Democrats voted in favour of the development of 400 houses in Ash. They will not be, in my view, friends of this campaign.

  3. Caroline Reeves Reply

    November 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    In response to Martin Downland:

    The consultation on the Local Plan Strategy and Sites Issues and Options document runs until Friday 29 November at 5pm. For more information go to the website http://guildfordlocalplan.info/ or visit the shop in Swan Lane.

    There is a workshop on 11 November. If you would like to go along book a place by telephoning 020 7729 1705 or by emailing mail@guildfordlocalplan.info

    The workshops will last approximately 2 and a half hours.

    Radisson Blu, Guildford town centre – Monday, 11 November 7pm – 9.30pm

    There are other workshops in other locations, all listed on the website.

    https://getinvolved.guildford.gov.uk/…/consultationHome

    The email address to submit comments is planningpolicy@guildford.gov.uk but it’s better to go to the on line questionnaire and respond to the issues there that are pertinent to your area.

    In response to Trevor Harris, the Ash site is in Countryside Beyond the Green Belt.

    Each site and the comments relating to it will be assessed individually. But there will have to be some building on the Green Belt in some areas of the Borough if we are to have a housing supply for the next 20 years. No decisions have been made as to where this will be, and how much will be built, that’s the point of the consultation.

  4. David Bird Reply

    November 6, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    I’ve been involved in a few Guildford area campaigns the most recent being the No Housing on the Aldershot Road Allotment site – see our website for details: http://www.saveouropenspaces.com

    One valuable lesson we learnt from GBC is that a signed petition bearing 10 or 10,000 signatures is regarded as GBC as one vote/one submission.

    We also had an online petition too that without any canvassing effort racked up 550 signatures within a few weeks. GBC did accept ours but advised 10 Downing St that the answer would lay in the results of the forthcoming 2008 Site Allocations Consultation. You may recall that the outcome of that consultation was blown out of the water by the South East Plan.

    So I’m not sure that petitions are the best instrument to influence local Council Officials. I would say petitions are a good measure of public opinion & support but the people who really worry about public opinion are more likely to be your local Borough & County Councillors. And there’s an election in 2015.

    Good luck.

  5. A Hamilton Reply

    November 6, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    I have a lot of family history connected to the Hog’s Back. I come from a large family that was born and bred at Flexford and still have family and connections to the neighboring village of Puttenham. It would be a crime to lose such a landmark.

  6. Anna Childs Reply

    November 6, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    A case of moving goal posts. The whole of Great Britain is my countryside. I don’t miss bits when I go on holiday. I want to protect it where ever it is.

  7. Bernard Parke Reply

    November 6, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    The email petition seemed to work with GuilFest.

    • Martin Giles Reply

      November 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      Yes, but that was a GBC email petition.

  8. David Smith Reply

    November 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Is this the land next to Surrey Sports Park? If so I thought UNIS already had permission to build accommodation and academic buildings here?

    The Hog’s Back is surely the bit where the A31 goes over and right at the top of the Mount?

    If this is the site I am thinking of it sides the A3, Railway and Research Park. There is no one that could be affected, it seems a logical place to build.

    • Karen Stevens Reply

      November 7, 2013 at 8:27 pm

      This land extends beyond the Manor Park site Mr Smith is referring to, which already has planning permission.

      Blackwell Farm is further west and includes an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and an Area of Great Landscape Value, and is visible for miles along the Hogs Back. It is bordered on the eastern side largely by ancient woodland. Anyone who travels along the A31 or has an appreciation of beautiful countryside will be affected as, instead of enjoying spectacular views, they will now be overlooking a conurbation twice the size of Shalford.

  9. Liam Reid Reply

    November 7, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Why does it matter that some people may not be from Guildford? If you’re within the borough and visit regularly you should have a say in it.

    • Susan Parker Reply

      November 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      I agree. Note that Guildford Borough Council is accepting pro-development responses from those in other contexts, which they call “Our research – specialist and technical evidence on specific topics”.

      If you wish to build on the green belt then this would be acceptable, it is because the motion opposes building that there is a problem.

  10. Kathryn Waring Reply

    November 9, 2013 at 1:27 am

    I agree with David Smith that it is the most logical place for building homes. And we do need more affordable homes for our young adults and in future our own children else the town will be home to just students and the elderly. However, I believe there is an alternative.

    The university should instead build accommodation for a further 2,000 plus students and create a university village. The footprint would surely be smaller than family homes and it would allow the numerous properties within the Manor Park and Guildford area to be returned to the family homes they once were. In my street alone this accounts for more than 30% of the houses.

    I have nothing against students in the town: we have reaped many benefits from the expansion of the university, but it would be the best use of the resources that we have.

    Also, the area that is marked is very close to student accommodation recently built. Correct me if I am wrong, but the area is not easily accessible to the community as an open space as it once was prior to the building of the research park.

    • Karen Stevens Reply

      November 13, 2013 at 10:25 pm

      Guildford can meet its affordable housing needs without building on the green belt. Houses on Guildford’s green belt will provide homes for people from London and elsewhere. They are likely to be executive homes sold at full market rates.

      I think Kathryn Waring may be surprised to learn that few, if any, of the houses to be built on this university-owned land will be ‘affordable’. Indeed the site has scored a ‘poor’ for affordable housing in the Issues and Options document, and a ‘good’ for executive homes.

      Land for student accommodation was taken out of green belt ten years ago.

      Will we be arguing the same points again in 2023 when the University wants to build on its next tranche of land further west? My understanding is that the purpose of green belt is to stop this happening and to make sure that we protect the countryside and that development concentrates on regenerating the heart of the town.

  11. Mark Payne Reply

    November 9, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Council officials replied to our request by email. I quote: ‘The Council welcomes petitions (whether hard copy or e-petition) and recognises that they are one way in which people can let us know their concerns’.

    Laughably our officials then go on to explain all the reasons why they won’t accept ours. I think this is just petty rules. A simple dose of common sense would have allowed a debate that the community wanted and that is about:
    1. Protecting land that is of outstanding natural beauty, greenbelt or great landscape value
    2. Redirecting developers towards brownfield sites.

    We will now have to go back to the community, to collect the 500 signatures in a way that complies with the wishes of the bureaucrats. One wonders who is working for who in all this?

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